So, a funny thing happened. Before I knew I was pregnant, Andrew and I had a cleaner come round and give us a price for cleaning the house twice a month. So this lovely lady comes around with her Mum, who is also her business partner, and I showed them around our house. Going from room to room, I could kind of see them trying to put a brave face on it… you see, our house is just full of stuff. And I’d never really noticed before, until I saw it through their eyes!
Needless to say, the cleaners never came back with a quote. They said they needed to do a deep clean (that would probably take a day) to help them “get on top of things”. Yikes.
After they had left, I wandered through the rooms and just kind of took in everything. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not living in a total pig sty, and we’re not dirty people, we just own a lot of things. Sentimental things to us… clutter to probably everyone else. I wasn’t even sure exactly what was under the spare bed, beyond some suitcases.
Deciding to declutter
So I made a little pact with myself to really get my shit together. Driven not only by the cleaners, but also by watching Blue Planet and seeing whales dying from plastic poisoning, and being offered more money on my credit card that I just don’t need, and being bombarded with January sales emails for more clothes I just don’t need. And then, when we found out a whole other person, with a whole load of other stuff, was on the way, it really spurred us on.
We decided to dedicate a few weekends in January to just sorting things out and, although we’re not yet finished, I thought I’d share how we approached it and where we’re up to.
Read this – Marie Kondo, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying
I tried to read this book a while ago, but I wasn’t ready to take on board anything I read. In fact, I thought it was full of shit. Who has time to roll their socks, anyway? Then I started small. I segmented my underwear drawer and started rolling my knickers so I could see which ones I wanted to wear more easily.
It was a success, so I moved on to other drawers – rolling and folding as I went and putting to one side all the clothes I didn’t want anymore. It was amazing how drawers that I’d previously struggled to close immediately looked ordered, and with plenty of room for more if I wanted them. I felt so calm! I still don’t roll my socks, but I took on the aspects of the book I bought into and left the ones I wasn’t.
Tackling the problem head on
Part of the problem was that we didn’t really even know what stuff we owned anymore. We dug out EVERYTHING from under both the beds, on top of cupboards, in cupboards – literally everything – and sorted it out stage by stage.
You’ve got to get it all out to really see exactly how much there is when it’s not all squirreled away. I had teddies from my childhood I didn’t know I had; photo albums with pictures of ex boyfriends; 10 million empty notebooks; endless bars of soap and about 15 bottles of sunscreen and mosquito spray that were all out of date.
Seeing it all literally laid out like that, made it much easier to say that some of this has to go!
Sorting out storage
Our house is beautiful, and spacious, but it is severely lacking in built-in storage. In fact, there is only one cupboard under the stairs. We had to work out where to put the things we wanted to keep and be ruthless with what we just don’t have space for.
Our wardrobes had collapsed before Christmas, so all our clothes were on clothes rails, stuffed into our chest of drawers and in laundry bags on the floor. Some were even packed into suitcases below the spare bed. Now, the husbear and I will always like buying clothes, but no one needs that many!
We headed to Ikea and bought three HUGE wardrobes, giving us space for all our clothes and more if we needed to. They were built in a weekend and our clothes sorted and put away. They only cost £485 for three, which is way cheaper than we found anywhere else. Again, I felt so relieved, and the spare room suddenly became habitable again.
Deciding what to keep
Now, what do you do with those teddies that you loved, played with and took everywhere with you when you were a child? It’s hard to think rationally about an object that you have imbued with so much meaning. This is where I had to read Marie Kondo a couple of times before I could get this into my head.
This is what I learnt. Part of the reason that I like to hoard so much is because I attach emotions to objects. I then feel like if I discard that object, I am getting rid of something with meaning, I am being wasteful and I am desecrating the memory attached to it.
What Marie Kondo teaches is that just because you decide to say goodbye to the object, it doesn’t mean you’re saying goodbye to the memories attached to it, the good times you enjoyed with it, or any of the happiness that it brought you. In fact, you’re passing that happiness and joy onto someone else to enjoy.
This might sound crazy, but it helps to thank your objects for the good times you’ve had and literally say goodbye to them, wishing them well. I did this with my teddies, and I cried, but I felt so much better that I was sending good vibes into the world. They were still in good nick, so they went to a charity shop and they will bring joy to others, I know it.
Discarding things responsibly
The other thing that was on our minds a lot was not just putting everything in the bin, headed for landfill. We had various bags on the go at the same time: one for charity; one for recycling; one for textiles recycling and one for rubbish. We made frequent trips to the charity shops where we live and recycled everything we could, even it meant driving somewhere to drop it off – we took small electricals and bags of textiles to the tip, I sent bras off to charity.
Keeping up the momentum
It’s great seeing the progress that we’ve made and it spurs me on to do more. We’ve also sorted out our bathroom storage and finally put up our wedding pictures into a gallery wall. It feels so much more calming to know where everything is, and it’s so much easier to keep the place tidy because everything has a place.
We’re not 100% there yet – there’s still plenty more work to do – and we will never be minimalists! We’re redecorating the dining room, getting some storage built and then moving our sofa bed and books into there. We’ve sold furniture we don’t need, giving us some more pennies to get the bits we really do need and we’re in the midst of choosing paint and appointing a joiner.
Now it’s all about keeping up the momentum and cracking on! It’s tough sometimes, it can be boring and it feels like we’re not making much progress. But we’re going to keep going because I know the end results will be worth it.
Let me know if you’ve set to de-cluttering and what your top tips are!
Pin now, read later!
I live on the other end of the storage spectrum. We have an abundance of storage space including walk in closets and a laundry room filled with cupboards. When we were a family of four in this space, it felt manageable. But now that two are gone, the remaining two have filled up very space with stuff. And every time I suggest we declutter, I am met with a quizzical face. We have lots of storage space so why not use it? Someday, someone will wish we had swept a few closets clean when we had the chance!
Chloe - new girl in toon says
So inspIring! I really need to get involved with this – we have loads of cupBoards and drawers just filled with clUtter and i know we could get rid oF so much. I wonder what simon would say if i just put “clear clutter” into the diAry?!
Haha he’d probably freak out! But it’s such a lovely feeling, I can’t explain it, I just feel freer! Still a long way to go, but we’re getting there 🙂
There must be something in the air because I’ve started doing exactly the same thing with my clothes. Rolling them up to see what I have has helped massively and I’ve had a huge clear out because of it. There’s an old Chinese philosophy that says if you hold something in your hand and it doesn’t bring you joy – get rid of it, so thats what I’VE started doing!
I can see so many clothes I hardly ever wear! Although that might be because my bump is getting in the way a bit now 😛 I totally agree with that philosophy – good luck with keeping it up!